People who don't know me often say, "Hey, you don't look like a fitness trainer! Why don't you stick to being a rabbi?"
Two answers to the above comment: First, I'm not a YouTube trainer who wants to show his my six-pack abs and flaunt what he can do but what you can't. Second, what much of the rabbinical world either ignores, forgot, or never learned, coaching people in physical well-being is an integral part of spiritual leadership. Look at these prime examples from our sages:
- Our forefather Jacob out-wrestled an angel. He lifted boulders that ten shepherds together barely lifted.
- Each of Jacob's 12 sons was an expert in martial arts (see Malbim of Parshat Vayichi).
- Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who was both a juggler and a gymnast who could do pushups on his thumbs alone (see tractate Succa 53a)
- Rebbe Shimon ben Lakish (Reish Lakish) could broad jump the Jordan River; in addition, he was a former gladiator who was deadly in hand-to-hand combat.
- Maimonides was an expert in physical fitness who even codified the principles of health, nutrition and fitness within religious law.
My health and wellness approach is rooted in the timeless health advice of the Rambam, which promotes harmony of body and soul, the truest form of holistic health. What good is a perfect figure or 21" biceps if you suffer from anxiety and depression?
In my years of athletic experience, training in all different types of sports from running to weight training to wrestling and combat arts, I went through a vicious cycle of approaching what I thought was my peak fitness, then suffering a big setback of an injury or flu. I was repeatedly burning myself out rather than building myself up. Even while learning to become a fitness trainer and health coach, most of my teachers were teaching me the same methods that didn't lead to the results I was looking for.
"True fitness is the optimum state of body-soul well-being..."
With Hashem's help, I came to the conclusion that true fitness is the optimum state of body-soul well-being, when physical and emotional ills disappear and a person functions at his or her best. This is opposed to the person who wins the marathon, then spends the next two weeks recuperating in the hospital. With body-soul fitness, your goal is not to run the 42 kilometers, to build the massive triceps or to become the aerobic-dance queen who is so carbo-starved after her workout that she eats twice the carbs that she burned. Your goal is to feel good so that you can serve Hashem more efficiently and happily...
Genuine holistic fitness is functional fitness. Functional fitness means that you function effectively: despite your age, you can run, walk, climb and lift as you need to. It also means that your body is free of disease and your soul and emotions are free of their diseases - worry, anger, anxiety, worry, depression, jealousy and other negative emotions.
My holistic approach, which I share with my readers free of charge on this blog and on our EmunaBeams podcast, addresses diet, disease prevention, exercise and lifestyle, and above all emuna, the pure and simple faith in the Creator that nourishes the soul and results in the epitome of fitness, the true balance of a healthy body in perfect harmony with a healthy soul. Blessings for a splendid summer and splendidly good health.